1965-1968 Honda CL77 Scrambler 305 | Retro Review

1967 Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
1967 Honda CL77 Scrambler 305. Owner: John Lundberg, Santa Margarita, California.

Here we have the last of Honda’s 305 models, which began with the dry-sump CA76 in 1959, moving on to the wet-sump CA77 Dream in 1960, then the CB77 Super Hawk in ’61, and finally, the model we are dealing with here, the CL77 Scrambler. Nobody seems to know where the 77 came from.

Curiously, Honda’s 250 version of the Scrambler, the CL72, had come out in 1962, and why Honda waited three years to scramblize the 305 has never really been explained. Again, leaving us to wonder. Though it may have had something to do with Yamaha’s 305cc Big Bear Scrambler, which appeared in 1965.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
The CL77’s off-road capability was limited, with less than 4 inches of suspension travel.

Scrambler styling, with those upswept exhaust pipes, was the desirable look in the ’60s—not that such bikes were much good in serious competition. Stripped down two-strokes were the hot item for anyone hoping to get the checkered flag. What the CL77 had was a great engine, a reasonably sporty chassis—by 1965 standards—and a rather high price, $720, about $5,500 in today’s dollars, which does not look terribly good when compared with today’s CB300F at $4,149.

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The motor was a very decent piece of work, the aluminum crankcase split horizontally so the oil contained had no way to leak. When Honda had originally developed the motor in the ’50s, the C75 being on the Japanese market in 1956, it had a dry sump, the oil in its own container, like the English bikes. But that soon changed to the wet-sump concept, requiring less plumbing—always a good idea.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
The dash was simple: speed and odometer.

The CL powerplant was very similar to the CB’s. The parallel twin’s 180-degree crankshaft had four bearings, a ball on the left end and three rollers, with needle bearings on the connecting rods. Keep them all lubricated and that crank could happily go 100,000 miles. The cylinder barrels were alloy, using cast iron liners and alloy heads, with two valves per cylinder. None of this pushrod nonsense, as a single overhead camshaft powered by a chain running between the two cylinders did all the work. With an externally adjustable tensioner. A pair of 26mm Keihin carbs, with excellent air cleaners, put the gas in the combustion chambers, to be compressed 9.5 times. Sparks were provided by an ignition system that employed an automatic advance mechanism, coming to full advance at some 3,300 rpm. Spin that baby to 9,000 rpm, and the better part of 28 horsepower could be found at the end of the crankshaft. A single-row primary chain ran the horses to a wet clutch, then through four gears, the main shaft running on pressure-fed ball bearings, and out on the right side to a final chain drive.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
The CL77 had a great engine, a sporty chassis…and a high price.

The CL frame was quite different from the CB’s. Since the Super Hawk was not expected to go bouncing over rocks and logs it had a tubular backbone frame running from steering head to swingarm pivot, with the engine actually suspended, having a short pair of arms connecting the cylinder heads with the frame. Honda techs, figuring the Scrambler might well get quite a number of hard knocks, created a loop frame, with a single front downtube splitting in two so as to cradle the engine and provide a place for a good skid plate. And also wiping out the electric starter, which had been just in front of the CB’s cylinders, but had to be removed to allow for the downtube. No worries, as it was an easy kick-starter—if the rider used the proper amount of choke.

Honda CL77 Scrambler 305
It was the 1960s, which meant one thing: chrome!

The Scrambler had a curb weight of 337 pounds and a wheelbase of 52.4 inches. Suspension was average, with a booted telescopic fork at the front, preload-adjustable shock absorbers at the back. Travel was not even 4 inches, so the bounceability was limited. The wheels were 19 inchers, shod with what was then called “universal” tires, which were far happier on the road than struggling in loose terrain. Early models had a small drum brake with a double leading shoe on the front wheel, and equally small single leading shoe on the back. The brakes worked OK, but without the force of the Super Hawk’s, as the engineers seemed a mite concerned with a rider applying a bit too much pressure while on a dirt surface. They were enlarged on the later models.

A long, flat saddle was comfortable when riding two-up, with a speedometer in the headlight nacelle, and the handlebar high and wide. The 40-tooth sprocket on the rear wheel meant high speed touring was certainly not this model’s forte. The silver-paint gas tank held a little less than 3 gallons, with knee grips; the side covers were color matched. Ivory-painted or chromed fenders showed off the painted frame, the latter in black, blue or red. The early version had a long, skinny, high-up dual-straight-pipe exhaust running out the left side, which could make a hellacious noise; soon the system had a small muffler at the far end.

One magazine called the CL77 a “gentleman’s scrambler,” and a gentleman should not be found wallowing in deep mud or struggling in a sandy stretch. Leave the genuinely rough stuff to the ungentlemanly types. This is not to denigrate the bike, which was built not to win races but to appeal both to the sporting types and to those who might be interested in some minor off-pavement excursions. And it worked, selling quite well in the increasingly competitive marketplace.

But after the better part of 10 years with the 305, Honda thought it necessary to move on…with the even better 350 model.

35 COMMENTS

  1. I was riding a Ducati 250 Monza when the ‘68 350 scrambler come out. The Ducati was a maintence nightmare and I knew some friends that had the 305 Honda’s with the electric start. I bought the red and white ‘68 scrambler and never had a problem with it, and I ran the H out of it both on the street and off road. You could not hurt it. I’m 70 years old and still ride nothing but Honda’s. I have a modified ‘94 Magna and a 2014 CTX1300 at present. I fell in love with Honda’s in line fours when the CB750K hit the streets, then the flat four of the Gold Wing and now the V-4s. Honda has always provide me with a durable and reliable motorcycle that is easy to main and great to ride.

    • No, only the Superhawk (CB-77) had the forward kick-start lever. Also the CB had the elect starter, as mentioned in the article. Presently, I’ve got one of both models…. always fun to compare the two. Nothing like the backroads in NC and SC to have some real pleasurable rides.

    • That was the cross-over year. Both CL72s and CL77s were made and available. Most of the CL72 250ccs bikes stayed in Japan, where they were EXTREMELY popular street poser bikes. I’m speaking from personal experience, as I basically grew up in Tokyo and graduated from HS there. Nothing sounds like a properly sorted and revved CL72 or 77! Especially without that coffee can muffler later put on to keep people (mostly pedestrians) placated. First mufflers were bolt on…later were welded units to upper pipe (since most promptly took off removeable add on muffler). “Snuff-or-nots” were mostly a US accessory thing, or so I think. Never saw them on Tokyo street ‘scrambler bosozoku’ riders. (street rebels). Anyway, today CL72s are quite rare….and some even more valuable than ‘standard’ CL77s.

  2. My older cousin Jim had this bike, and I fell in love with motorcycling partly because of it. Though my first ride was on a Cushman Scooter, also owned by my cousin before he got the 305. The 305 had the little “snuff or not” rotatable washers at the end of the pipes to cut down on noise in town, then open them up out on the country roads!

  3. I have a 67 305 Honda dream and uptown I can park it beside $20,000 Harleys and people are all over it. I picked it up with a spare engine C77 for $950.00 I also have a GSXR600 but it is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow!

  4. I bought a ’67 305 Scrambler to replace my ’66 Suzuki 150. What a great bike. This was a big seller in my area, and lots of the early ones had no muffler, but had twist knobs to “open the exhaust” if desired. They made quite a racket to say the least. I added “TT pipes” to mine in’68 which I customized with baffles to reduce the bark of the exhaust. All in all, after having a couple of speeding tickets, and starting to look for a better car, I sold it to my future brother in law for a good price. You always meet the nicest people on a Honda. Peace!

    • Honda models before 1976 did not have model years. So to call it a 1966 or 1968 is not accurate. The chrome fender scramblers with welded to pipe silencer was sold in 1967 and a few were sold in 1968, but the cl350 was released in 1968, the first year 350s were CB or CL350K0, with a few minor changes the model was then a CL350K1. The later models got minor changes and the model ended with the CL350K5. The 450s went to CB450K7, because that model started with CB450K0 in 1966. The CB750 started the same way in 1969. Not until the US federal government required the bikes have a model year assigned when manufactured (starting in 1976), was a model year used to ID the bike for parts orders ect. The “years” of the 60s Honda were filled in by DMV clerks so that all the little boxes in the paperwork were complete. Honda did not assign model years until 1976.
      I owned a “1966” and now a “1968” 305 Scrambler, and there was several minor changes, including, chrome fenders vs. silver painted fenders, last year or so had silencer welded to right exhaust pipe. Early models had steel footrests, later models have rubber footrests, late fuel tanks have no crossover hose and a seam down the top of the fuel tank, also a larger tail light on later models, there were 3 different chain guards that tend to crack and are the harder to find replacement part. Many parts changed from “early” to “late” models , headlight, seat, tail light, and some engine parts.
      That’s my ” late” 305 scrambler in the photo, likely first sold in 1967. I owned an early CL77 in 1969, but I was drafted in 1970 and it went MIA while I was gone. I built this one from ebay parts after I retired. It’s had a few improvements since the “Rider” magazine photos, including a second set of exhaust pipes with NOS “Snuff or Nots”. I ride it often.
      John

  5. I have read that the reason Honda split the crankcase horizontally was to ease the assembly process (reduce assembly line costs). The challenge was that no gasket could be used between the halves so the bearings did not move, which meant that the top and bottom mating surfaces of the crankcase halves had to be machined to very close tolerances.

    The Japanese seemed to have spent more engineering on the assembly line than the motorcycle. I had a 67 CL77 and felt it was only a fair off-road machine, but other than foot-peg clearance, it was a nice cornering machine on the street.

  6. i am trying to restore a 1967 Honda 305 Scrambler and cannot find he parts needed to do so.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

  7. My first bike was a ’66 scrambler which I loved, I sold it in late ’68 because I was going into the army in early ’69, I loved the bike but was amazed at the difference in speed and performance of my younger brothers 350 scrambler with the 5 speed, When I came home in ’70.

  8. I remember seeing a device coming out of the exhaust valves Of the CL 77 Honda that was suppose to scavage and remove more exhaust gas from the exhaust chambers…but I can not find any information on it. Any help would be appreciated !

    • John, the primary reason for Honda going with the horizontally split eng./trans. case was due to the English bikes of that time period leaking due to the design of their eng. cases, the trans were a separate unit on most larger bikes in production at that time BTW.

      You might note that when Yamaha bought the rights to produce their clone of the Triumph. the XS-650 which is still a favorite till this day, and Kawasaki’s W650 version of the BSA 650, both machines were built with horizontally split cases to avoid slobbering oil everywhere.

  9. I was 14 when I got my 67 ,305 scrambler. I beat it up, sadly in 1972. Kept blowing gears out of it. I was able to tear the engine down and put the new gears in myself. I remember putting it together and going out on the road and got it to go 99 mph. Couldn’t crack 100. I wish I still had it.

  10. Bought my PURPLE 67 ? Scrambler 305 in 1971 in Morristown, New Jersey. July 71 went in Army ‘Choice Rather than Chance (Vietnam)’. Left it with my parents who moved to Plymouth Michigan. I returned from Germany tour in 1975 to be stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Went to Michigan to recover the Scrambler. Got assigned to Germany again so had it thru 1976 and sold it in Lawton (Fort Sill area). Always wished I could’ve kept it. Did Honda make a PURPLE version ? or could the ‘Barn Find’ one being sold in Michigan now be mine? If it is, its funny how it returned to Michigan from Oklahoma. Would like to recover it and pay to have it restored now… Even funnier, I’m retired Army, 69 and back in Jersey now….

  11. My first motorcycle was a ’67 CL77 that I got in 1968. Great fun that I ran all over So. Cal. with. After a while I wanted better highway performance so I installed a smaller rear sprocket (36 tooth?). It was black/silver, and I’d love to find one to restore. My Harley FLHXS is my traveller today, but this would be a great around town bike to have to turn back the years, at least in my head.

  12. Paul. I have a 66 CL77 that I’ll sell you cheap. $2800. It runs and looks great but leaks oil when it gets hot. I just don’t have the time or patience to tear into it. I live in Scottsdsle, AZ.

  13. I bought a CL77 when I was stationed in Tokyo back in 1967 at Curley’s (I think) outside the gate at Yokota AB. Think I paid around $500.00 for it. Recall there were two engines available a Type 1 or 2. The 2 was a 360 crank — but I am not sure that was available in the CL77. Good memories of that bike and riding in Japan. Later, when I returned to the US I bought a 750 -4.

  14. I was the first guy in south Seattle to figure out how to properly set the ignition timing on a 305. The Burien Honda dealership sure didn’t know. You adjust one cylinder by moving the point base plate till at 3500 rpm the full advance mark aligns then set the second cylinder by adjusting the point gap. You couldn’t just set the point gap and time one cylinder. They run so much better timed this way. I remember every young lovely had a nasty burn scar on the left inner thigh from those pipes, ouch!!

  15. I have a ’65 CL77 I bought recently that was nearly complete but needed some parts that I could not find here in the UK, as it’s a USA model. I was told about Yahoo Japan & have been getting parts from there. It’s not straightforward like ebay, you have to buy through a proxy company – of which there are many. I chose “From Japan” FJ. You set up an account with the proxy (FJ) & from that you can access Yahoo Japan auctions, amongst others. You can buy from many sellers over a period & all the stuff is accumulated at the proxy’s warehouse. When you decide, all your purchases are packed & shipped, it’s a great service but beware of Import Tax to your country! That is the unknown cost that hit’s you AFTER your precious parts are delivered. After several shipments I know roughly how much & set my purchase limits accordingly. Just need to sort out the bad starting now. Good luck & happy riding, Chris in Clevedon, England

  16. The reason Honda waited 3 years before enlarging the CL72 from 250cc, to 305cc in the CL77, was that Honda wanted to observe the displacement classes for Scrambles and Class C Flat track racing. They knew that if they put the 305cc engine in that bike, it would force the owner to run races in the 500cc or Open class. But once they realized that very CL72s were being raced (only ridden on the street), they relented and stuck the “big motor” into that bike. By the way, there was a dramatic performance difference between the 250 and 305 engines…very disproportionate to the only 55cc increase in displacement. And no, Clement…the CL72s did not have a DLS front brake…it was single-leading-shoe. When Honda went to the “big brakes” on the CL77, they added DLS to the front brake.

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